Google is committing $150 million to promote COVID-19 vaccine education and equitable distribution to underserved communities, the tech giant announced Monday.
Google also pledged to open up its own facilities to serve as vaccination sites as needed.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Google worked with more than 100 government agencies and global nongovernmental organizations to run critical public service health announcements through its ad grants crisis relief program. The company will provide an additional $100 million in ad grants for the CDC Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO) and nonprofits around the globe.
The tech giant also will invest another $50 million in partnerships with public health agencies to reach underserved communities with vaccine-related content and information, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said in a blog post.
"Our efforts will focus heavily on equitable access to vaccines. Early data in the U.S. shows that disproportionately affected populations, especially people of color and those in rural communities, aren’t getting access to the vaccine at the same rates as other groups. To help, Google.org has committed $5 million in grants to organizations addressing racial and geographic disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations, including Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the CDC Foundation," Pichai said.
During a recent Fierce JPM Week interview, David Feinberg, M.D., vice president of Google Health, said the tech giant's health efforts in 2021 would focus on providing authoritative information about COVID-19 vaccines to help address health equity.
"Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible for everyone. We know it’s important to get that information out so that there is clear health literacy and people can understand what’s happening," Feinberg said.
"COVID opened our eyes to the disparities in healthcare," Feinberg said, noting health technology can help close those gaps.
Google also is using its technological capabilities to make it easier for consumers to find locally relevant information, including when and where to get the vaccine. Searches for “vaccines near me” have increased five times since the beginning of the year, the company said.
In the coming weeks, COVID-19 vaccination locations will be available in Google Search and Maps, starting with Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, with more states and countries to come. The information provided will include details like whether an appointment or referral is required, if access is limited to specific groups or if a location has a drive-thru.
The company expanded its information panels on Search to more than 40 countries and dozens of languages, with more rolling out in the coming week.
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"We’ll begin showing state and regional distribution information on Search so people can easily find when they are eligible to receive a vaccine. Soon we’ll launch a 'Get The Facts' initiative across Google and YouTube to get authoritative information out to the public about vaccines," Pichai said.
Google also plans to make some of its buildings parking lots, and open spaces available to be vaccination clinics. It's partnering with healthcare provider One Medical and public health authorities to open sites in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in California; Kirkland, Washington; and New York City, with plans to expand nationally.
And the company is using its tech muscle to help improve vaccination distribution. Logistics companies are using Google's artificial intelligence to optimize trucking operations by adapting to traffic or inclement weather and detecting temperature fluctuations during transport. Google Cloud's Intelligent Vaccine Impact Platform is helping states like New York and North Carolina manage distribution and forecast where vaccines, personal protective equipment and hospital staffing will be most needed, Pichai said.